Ziggy joined our family in April 2018. We thought long and hard about getting another dog. We already had Evie, a Dingo/Kelpie, who was 4 years old when we got Ziggy. Evie is a sensitive soul, a fearful dog who can struggle in everyday settings but we knew with the right puppy and the right introductions we could make it work. Our daughter was 2 years old and we weren’t planning on having another child for another year or two, allowing us to have the time and energy to put into a new puppy and get them set up for life as best we could.
Ziggy came to us a 7 week old Border Collie, he was from a farm breeder and our first non-rescue dog so that we would be able to assess his temperament, his parent’s temperament, have knowledge of his early weeks and be able to have an impact on his upbringing from a young age. To say Evie was confused when he first arrived home was an understatement, baby gates and leads were a god send but after 4 days of very controlled interactions she just went, ‘what the hell little guy let’s play’. I may or may not have cried when it happened….. It hasn’t always been smooth sailing but watching their relationship grow and the changes we’ve seen in both dogs has made even the hard times worth it!
At about 6 months of age I noticed Ziggy having some obvious pain responses. He had always been a bit sensitive to touch and no matter what training we did he hated having a harness on; but then he began vocalising, there was reluctance to move and an inability to settle. When he got sterilised I opted to include x-rays, specifically of his hips. As it turned out, it was good call as he was diagnosed with hip dysplasia. This threw us a bit of a curve ball, while he didn’t need surgery at this stage there were going to be changes we had to make. We had a young, energetic working breed dog who we now had to be more mindful of with physical exercise, so we didn’t cause him any undue pain. Initially we added in some supplements to help maintain his joints, found an animal physio, Dr Susan Yuen, and eventually added in some regular pain relief medication to assist him day to day.
We thought we were on top of things with him, but unfortunately not long into the new year he started having what could only be described as “night time episodes”. I may have been a vet nurse and a dog trainer but this was all new to me! It has been a long road to diagnosis, first a potential sleep disorder, then potential neurological/toxicological issues and potential seizures. All of this happening while I was dealing with a difficult second pregnancy. We have already experienced a new-born and the lack of sleep, we really didn’t need a reminder 9 months before the new guy was due! At times the outcome didn’t look so good, I’m not a stressy person but this dog had me so worried. Thankfully, we now have a diagnosis of Idiopathic Epilepsy which we should be able to keep under control with medication. While this has been primarily medical issue the flow on effect has been behavioural. I can only imagine what it must feel like to have constantly interrupted sleep and not have a clue what is going on; the result it turns out is, not surprisingly, an increase in the stress and anxiety levels. To help counter the flow on effect we made sure to get Ziggy assistance from the best specialists, medical and behavioural, as well working on as much force free training to help him out with the numerous tests and consults that he had to endure.
As a result of Ziggy’s medical issues we have had to rethink our training plans and adjust our training goals on a regular basis. He has most certainly kept us on our toes. We already filled his day with a lot environmental enrichment, I am a trainer after all. Over time though we have tailored it to not only include working on his proprioception skills to help build up the muscles in his hind legs and core but also provide him with some of the much-needed mental outlets he needs, as he is bred to work. Now don’t think we are depriving him of anything as he still gets to play with a ball/rope but instead of throwing it a long distance for him to chase (which we didn’t do anyway) we kick it along the ground, generally after waiting for him to exhibit desired behaviours, so that he can stop and control the movement like his border collie heart desires. We work on reinforcing a lot of calm behaviours, both at home and out and about, especially when it to comes to certain scenarios where movement can peak his chase instinct. And finally, this one took a while, getting him to slow down enough to enjoy the wonderful world of sniffing. I promise you, even if you have that dog that just keeps going one of the best things you can encourage them do stop is stop and sniff. The benefits of this natural behaviour are endless!
The way things have turned out with Ziggy may not be how we thought they would go but that’s ok; life rarely goes to plan! It is important to remember that even though it can be easy to assume some behaviours are your dog just being a dog and they are nothing to concern yourself about and while we may have certain expectations about what a dog’s life should consist of, we need to be fluid in our approach so that we are doing the best we possibly can for the furry members of our family. Ultimately, you need to know your dog inside and out and train the dog that’s in front of you!
** It is important to note that there was no indication of either the hip dysplasia or the epilepsy in his grandmother, mother or father but they are none the less a potential medical issue for his breed. Basically Ziggy didn’t win the genetic lottery just like most of our dogs**